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January 23, 2013

DSI Intends to Boldly Mine Where No Mining Company Has Mined Before: Asteroids

By David Gitonga, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Deep space exploration and mining has always been a fascinating idea among scientific enthusiasts. The idea of conquering new worlds and bringing spoils of war back home has been the theme of many a movie depicting space as the final frontier. Believe it or not, reality can be stranger than fiction and the idea of mining nearby planets and asteroids many just be a few years ahead.

Deep Space Industries (DSI) is one of the asteroid mining startups that is taking this idea out of the movies into the real world. The startup intends to hold a conference on Tuesday at Santa Monica’s Museum of Flying to unveil plans for the final frontier. The idea is to prospect near-Earth asteroids with an eye towards mining material that will establish a permanent presence in space. By 2015, the company intends to send “FireFly” spacecraft to explore asteroids that fly by and eventually send heavier “DragonFly” crafts to bring back samples from likely candidates between 2016 and 2020.

If the initial steps work out, DSI hopes to take this even further and power a “Microgravity Foundry” which is a 3D printing technology to print metal components in zero gravity. Once the patent for the technology, which uses nickel-charged gas, goes through and mining commences, the company promises to successfully recover resources from these asteroids to provide fuel for current generation spacecraft, and hopefully construct large communications platforms to replace the current communications satellites to help beam carbon-free energy to consumers here on Earth.

A similarly ambitious company, called Planetary Resources, revealed its own asteroid mining plans in April 2012. An even more ambitious contemporary released the Golden Spike proposal to profitably reach the moon by 2020. Planetary Resources however is different from DSI since it has funding from James Cameron, the Avatar director, as well as Google (News - Alert) Executives, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt. DSI claims it can get similarly deep-pocketed backing for the initial missions.

According to the CEO of DSI, David Gump, live feeds will be streamed to the public together with online courses in asteroid mining sponsored by corporate marketers. DSI even claims that NASA and others have shown interest.

Looks like the content from fantasy movies like Star Trek may, after all, provide some ideas we can actually “mine.”

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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